Blues vs. Avalanche Odds & Pick: Back St. Louis As Short Favorites on Sunday

Credit:

Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Gabriel Landeskog.

  • Check out our betting preview for Sunday's matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche.
  • Find betting odds and a pick for the game below, including why there's value on St. Louis.

St. Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche 

Blues Odds -105 [BET NOW]
Avalanche Odds -110 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 5.5 (-113/-108) [BET NOW]
Time Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV NBCSN

Despite entering the 2019 playoffs as a wild card, the Colorado Avalanche shredded the Calgary Flames in the first round. The Avalanche ripped off four straight wins and waxed the Flames by four-goal margins twice.

But the good times ground to a halt against the San Jose Sharks, who sent the Western Conference’s team of the future packing for the summer.

Fifteen months later, the Avs face the reigning Stanley Cup champs, the St. Louis Blues in the NHL’s round robin, and DraftKings has the game as a virtual pick’em.


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Colorado has a lot of attractive qualities. The Avs’ depth and garish star power at forward are enviable. Furthermore, Colorado’s defense outperformed its offense this season. Colorado finished seventh in expected goals against and, most importantly, played better in the 2020 portion of the season (ranked fourth in expected goals) than in the 2019 segment (ranked 14th).


Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


Fueling this surge from the Avalanche defensive group was all-world rookie Cale Makar, who demonstrated he’s an elite defenseman despite starting the season under the legal drinking age. But Makar’s health is in doubt. He left practice on July 18 and has been on the mend since, missing large chunks of training camp.

A further concern for the Avalanche is that the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko, their reliable right-wing sniper, returns to action to reunite a dangerous line with Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn.

Tarasenko’s regular season was cut short by injury, but if one looks at his 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons playing alongside those two forwards, their line supplied a 58.19% expected goals rate in 355 minutes. When Tarasenko was removed, Schwartz and Schenn submitted an expected goals of 51.96%.

During the postseason, the same effect could be felt, only less dramatically. In last year’s playoffs, the line’s expected goals was 53.22% over 182 minutes together.

But in 70 minutes without Tarasenko, the number dropped to 50.77%. Frighteningly, the Blues’ power play, which finished the season at 24.3%, good for third in the NHL, is adding Tarasenko to the second unit.

Strategic concerns could also bedevil Colorado. Ryan S. Clark from The Athletic wrote that the Avalanche are signaling that they plan to start the round robin with Nathan Mackinnon separate from Gabriel Landeskog.

The putative first line would be Andre Burakovsky, Mackinnon, and Mikko Rantanen. The Avalanche are animated by a desire to distribute their skill, and Landeskog has the chops to shepherd his own line.

Unfortunately, the defensive responsibilities on the first line now would fall on MacKinnon, as Landeskog was normally the forward who would patrol the area around the low slot, giving MacKinnon and Rantanen the autonomy to stretch the ice in transition should the opponent lose possession. With that duty of care on MacKinnon, the metrics suggest it could sap his efficacy.

Together, the Mackinnon-Landeskog duo have a roaring expected goals rate of 60.42%. But in 460:51 minutes without Landeskog, MacKinnon’s expected goals rate free-falls to 49.26%! That is astonishing.

In high-danger chances percentage the same impact is felt, as playing with Landeskog the two registered a 60.45%, but without Landeskog, Mackinnon could only summon a 48.37%.

There is one caveat to mention and his name is Jordan Binnington. The Blues netminder was an unexpected catalyst during the 2018-19 campaign. In 32 regular season games, Binnington posted an 8.85 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx), and followed that up by submitting a 1.08 GSAx in the postseason. His playoff numbers are not bonkers, but he did not wither on the biggest stage.


Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) is an advanced statistic that measures a goaltender’s performance against the quality of scoring chances he faced. It is a better catch-all metric compared to save percentage because every SV% counts every saved shot and goal the same, while GSAx weights shots by the quality of the scoring chance.

GSAx numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


Without Binnington in net, the Blues would not be the reigning Stanley Cup champs. Full stop. But the champagne wore off by the start of 2019-20, as Binnington produced an adequate but not unassailable encore.

To wit, his backup Jake Allen strung together a better GSAx and 5-on-5 save percentage than Binnington, albeit in much less ice time. There is a chance that Binnington is outplayed by Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer and this flips the outcome on its head.

Betting Analysis

Makar’s injury, MacKinnon being taxed by defensive responsibilities, and Tarasenko’s recovery make the Blues seem like a nice play at -105. I think the price is right for the Blues to start the round robin with a W.

Pick: St. Louis Blues -105

[Bet now at DraftKings. CO, NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

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